The CRAFT System for Content Creation
If you’re struggling to write content for your marketing and sitting in front of your computer thinking how to plan and CREATE the content for real, this post will guide you through the entire process, step by step.
You might have gathered hundreds of blog topic ideas and even created a content bank to research, and write content later. I used to do that and I know how it feels to have a spreadsheet full of keywords to write, which itself is overwhelming, but the thought of creating the content is another overwhelming task that will make you wonder if it is really a possibility.
Creating a content plan is just one part of the whole puzzle and creating content is another. It is always easy to create content, but to create content that matters, it takes effort, which a human brain wants to avoid.
The human brain is trained through evolution to save as much energy as possible; yes our brain does consume energy to do its stuff.
Let’s go back to when we were hunters. Lack of energy could mean the difference between life and death. What if you had just a few more minutes of running capacity when chased by a tiger? You could reach your village and could be saved? Might be yes or not depending on your tribe.
Coming back to the present, once our brain identifies the energy consumption of each task, it will choose the one that takes less energy or chooses the task that is less important or just convince yourself that the task is not important at the moment.
Throughout my life, I have started literally hundreds of projects, 50 plus websites of my own. It is always exciting at the beginning. Most of the time I overlook the challenges and obstacles when I start and then figure it out as they appear. On the other hand, there have been projects that have slipped into the void with time.
It is our brain that looks for new things, Substantia Nigra is to be blamed. Read about here and here
I was a perfectionist till I understood the word perfection is subjective ( that is for another day). Coming back to content, this is what happens with most content marketers or marketers in general.
Creating patterns and habits.
We, marketers, get excited in getting started with content marketing, but never work with the most crucial cog in the gear – ourselves!
When we start content marketing without fixing this issue, we end up either not creating or creating content that doesn’t convert or excite the readers.
The purpose of content is to relate, inform, educate and move the audience to the next level.
What is the next level?
This question can be answered by answering three simple questions:
1. Who is your target audience?
2. What do they require?
3. How can you offer value in their journey towards their requirement?
For example, let’s take this post.
1. Who is my target audience?
Marketers who require to create content for their marketing ( I can go deeper than that but, for this example, let’s stop here)
2. What do they require?
They require a guide or step by step content-creation plan to get traction.
3. How can I offer value?
I will walk them through my entire process of crafting content with a plan and equip them with the necessary tools to get started as quickly as possible.
Once I know the purpose of my content, I can move into the subtle art of creating patterns and habits that are the underlying hurdle of content procrastination. (Don’t search for it, I just coined it)
Content creation starts with writing, and you need to develop the skill of writing before you create a plan for the content itself. Without getting into a habit of writing, the content plan is useless. You will always feel it as another painful task in your checklist or a big burden in your mind.
4. Steps to building a writing habit to your daily routine.
1. Brainstorm random list of 14 topics you love.
2. Write 100 words/day at least for 14 days (Google Docs).
3. Track & optimize the 14 days.
Step 1 and 2 are obvious. Step 3 is a bit more important. During the 14 days, you will notice patterns in your writing habits.
Eg: You might find it easier to write 100 words or more at a particular time slot.
You might have insights like the optimal place, triggers, and feelings that will help you in writing.
Why I used “might”? The answer is, “every person is different.”
Let me share my experience, when I started the 14 days’ writing, I found myself struggling to go past 100 words, the first 3 days were a drag. The next evening, after my workout, I sat down to relax in front of my laptop and I wrote 300 words in 5 minutes. I continued it for days and I have even written a full story for a movie in 45 minutes straight, a few years ago. I will write another post entirely dedicated to my writing process and routine.
Once you find the right time of the day to integrate your writing practice, just do it for the rest of the period and it will become a habit. I would suggest using the same spot, same tools ( Google Doc is my preference) for building the writing habit.
Try it out and let me know how it works for you.
Now that we have covered the writing routine part, let’s move into the more exciting part of creating the content plan.
If you have answered the 3 questions before, you now know what you need in terms of creating the perfect content. For this, we will use the CRAFT system I have developed over the last few years.
What does CRAFT stand for?
1. Customer Avatar.
2. Related Topics.
1. Customer Avatar
If you are selling a software product to tech startups, it doesn’t make sense to write content that will attract retired seniors ( unless they own or market tech startups). Your goal in content creation is to sync your content with your target audience.
Your priority should be to add value to the person’s journey from your ideal visitor to ideal prospect to the ideal customer.
Before I realized this truth, I had a website that got 1000s of visitors per month with no results. High page views mean nothing if it can’t match your content with your visitor’s requirements. Identifying the customer is the crucial part here.
As mentioned before, when creating content, it is better to talk to a person rather than a group of people. Yes, the person might be part of a group, but it might be more relatable if you talk their language to the specifics.
Let us take the example of a Persona.
Persona Name: Michelle
Profession: Business Coach
Michelle has been running a successful coaching business for a few years now, but she wants to showcase and market her coaching online. She needs to have a sales funnel online that converts her website visitors into email subscribers. She would also like to nurture her leads through email so that they are converted into a sale down the funnel.
Michelle has knowledge in marketing and she knows what she wants, but requires clear guidance and help in setting up and executing the strategies to improve her business. This will result in having more customers and more business leading to a life of freedom she wished for when she started the business.
Her problems: Technical jargons and complicated software. No clear Guidance.
Solutions: Step-by-step guides if she decides to do it herself, a skilled digital marketing expert;) with skills like design and development or skilled designer with marketing expertise etc.
Identifying her problems and her goals will help you move her closer to her goal faster through either giving her the right information or giving her the right service. Either way, you need to create content to educate her about what she can do and how you can add value to her plans.
Once you know that Michelle is your ideal customer, you can write your content just for her. You can tell her which email marketing software to use or brainstorm a set of topics:
1. Email Marketing Tips.
2. Blog Setup Tutorials.
3. How to integrate different platforms ( WordPress and MailChimp).
4. Guide on Hosting Services etc.
Just ask yourself, does creating this content/this topic help Michelle move closer to her goal? if yes, you are on track.
Imagine, your ideal customer is Michelle and you happen to get an idea to write about cheesecake recipes today since your friend gave you one.
Do you think it will pass the question and will qualify for content creation? No, unless Michelle(target group) likes cheesecakes.
It also depends on how deep you have researched on the audience segment. In case you have doubts, it is better just leave it to this simple question check.
Keeping the persona as a roadmap for your content plan will make sure you don’t stray far from your topic.
Brainstorming can be dangerous if you don’t know how to extract the useful information from it. I had a friend of mine who set up a blog and contacted me for the related topics for his main theme.
I suggested brainstorming. The next time I saw him ( after a few months), found out that he has left the project and the reason was that he came up with too many categories and then found it overwhelming.
Don’t let this happen to you when you are creating related topics for content expansion*(coming soon).
*Content expansion is the process of expanding your content range on the website with closely related topics branching out.
So for example if you are writing about Digital Marketing, you could brainstorm the following the topics that are related:
1. Email marketing
2. Content Marketing
3. Search Engine Optimization
4. Social Media Marketing (Generic)
5, Facebook Advertising
6. Facebook Marketing
7. Twitter Marketing
8. Youtube Marketing
9. Marketing Automation
10. Instagram Marketing
11. Lead Capturing
12. Lead Nurturing
14. Conversion Rate Optimization
15. Conversion Centric Design
16. E-commerce Marketing
17. E-Commerce Development
18. Google Analytics
19. Link Building
20. On Page Optimization
21. Google Updates
22. Web Hosting
24. Landing page software
25. Tumblr Marketing
26. Viral Marketing
27. Affiliate Marketing
28. Google Adwords
29. Google Adsense
30. Mobile Traffic Networks
Facebook Marketing, Twitter Marketing, Youtube Marketing can be grouped under Social Media Marketing. You can work backward when necessary. More on that in another post later.
You get it, it can go and on. Can you write about all of them? Yes, you can but would your ideal customer want to know about all that at once? Might be, Yes.
And is it really necessary for your ideal customer, say for Michelle to know or learn in detail about all of the above?
Might be not.
Again the 3-questions-check will qualify the topic and it will keep you focused on the main topic and closely related ones. If you have noticed, there are topics that can be grouped or just ignored in the above list.
If you plan without a goal, you are already set for failure. You need focus and direction, but at the same time, the goal needs to be attainable. It should be something that you could reach with the available resources.
A goal should inspire and motivate you to achieve it. If the goal is unrealistic, in your subconscious you know that you will be not able to achieve it and your brain will not be motivated to spend its energy on something that will not succeed.
This is why you need to have attainable goals. The best way to create attainable goals is to create multiple milestones for the goal. Milestones are short term or small goals that add up to achieve the main goal.
Example: The main goal might be to produce 12 posts on email marketing in 6 months’ time and the milestones would be 2 posts a month or 1 post fortnightly.
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” ― Confucius
If you have done the basic research like identifying your ideal customer and identifying the measurable goals that you can attain, you need to have focus. How do you focus?
The focus is the execution part of the plan in my perceptive. I don’t say that this is the only way, but this is one of the ways that has worked for me.
Let’s take an example:
From my research, I have identified one main topic to base my content marketing on, “Weight loss for Diabetic”.
My ideal customer is a diabetic, who is looking to lose weight.
My main topic is “weight loss for diabetes”
My sub-topics would be:
healthy snacks for diabetics
diabetic weight-loss plan
diabetic diet plan
diabetic shoes for women
healthy foods for diabetics
diabetic diet meal planner
type 2 diabetes diet
blood sugar lowering foods
food list for diabetics
and a quick search on diabetic exercise alone gave me this:
diabetic exercise plan
diabetic exercises chart
diabetic exercise routine
diabetic exercise fitness
diabetic exercises sitting
diabetic exercises for women
diabetic exercises to lose belly fat
diabetes exercise guidelines
diabetic exercise routine
diabetic exercise in gym
diabetic exercise videos
diabetic exercise at home
diabetic exercise program
diabetic exercise equipment
diabetic exercise machine
diabetic exercise equipment
diabetic exercise book for dummies
diabetic exercise socks
Do you think in 2 minutes, if I can find 30 topics, you could easily find 10 sub-topics in each one of these?
The real question is ” Is it necessary?” and the answer is NO.
If you are a solo content marketer and outsourcing is not on your list at the moment ( I don’t recommend, till you have the entire system familiarized) you don’t have time or resources to create hundreds of content pieces.
Let’s find a realistic number to aim for, an average content marketer can write one quality content piece/week with detail research or two if stretched. You can create 4 posts a month and 48 posts in a year.
You just need 8 categories and 6 posts in each. Do you think that is difficult?
Focus, is identifying the 6 posts in each of these categories and deciding when to write, publish and promote them.
Tracking your progress is crucial. You need to create a content calendar based on the content plan. Precise posting dates and deadlines should be recorded. Tracking the entire goal progress will guide you in the correct path if you are not.
Every post should have a date for creation, review, publishing, promotion, and reporting. Again, this will give you the information required to compare your expected results from the goal or milestones with the result you have achieved.
In case your expectations were not met after a few milestones, you might have to consider a realignment of the strategy of achieving the main goal.
If you have a goal of achieving 10 posts a month and you a have achieved only two!. Every month for 3 months, you can be sure that you are not going to reach 120 posts at the end of the year. It is time to make a realistic goal based on your resources.
Like I mentioned before, without a measurable system based on an attainable goal, you will not be able to make these informed changes.
Choose an option that you see yourself using in the long run and that you’re comfortable with. Next is content promotion, It requires a post of its own and is out of the scope of this post.
If you have been procrastinating from creating content and a plan for creating it, then you now have no excuse to do that. You can follow the steps above to start creating awesome content that will convert like the Amazon Black Friday Sales.
Every time you create a piece of content, you will know it’s position in your entire strategy and no more will your brain identify it as a waste of time. The milestones will give you the gratification and the feeling of achievement to move ahead towards your goal.